Hānai sells food for you to make at home, but at their mobile outdoor kitchen, you can sample the goods as well with small dishes of 100 percent local ingredients. Photo by Anni Caporuscio

By Anni Caporuscio

Hānai has a broad, yet simple vision: To celebrate the abundance and variety of Kauaʻi’s food and to make it available. Hānai is about supporting the agricultural community and bringing people together with the language that we all speak — food.

Hānai sells, supports and represents 100 percent local food, a daunting task to some, a fun challenge to others. It arose from the idea that most people will cook with local ingredients when it’s convenient, but what would cuisine entirely born from Kauaʻi taste like?

Think about all the pieces that have to come together to produce a meal; the meat, the veggies, the starch, the salad, the dessert. The drinks. The spices. The simmering sauces. The oil. The salad dressing. The marinades. All of these things can be readily harvested on Kauaʻi.

Hānai — and its vision — are only possible with relationships created over the years between Chef Adam Watten and island producers. And we are the beneficiaries.

But what I really want to talk about is beef.

Beef skewers sauteed in beef butter. One skewer is flap steak, dense and visceral meat, and the other is sirloin, if you can believe it, a light and gentle cut. Both seasoned with sea salt and a selection of aromatic spices. Photo by Anni Caporuscio

Chef Adam sources his beef from the Sanchez family, who used to supply Kojima store. He says Uncle Willy’s beef is some of the highest quality produce he’s ever worked with. Factors that influence quality are good grass, generations of good genetics, and hanging after slaughter for the proper time. The Sanchez family has a new, impressive facility with the right space and refrigeration. They utilize the entire animal; it’s the right thing to do, as well as a study in versatility.

While he was searing fresh ahi, sweet backyard shrimp and beef skewers, I asked Chris Ryan of Hānai what all the beef for sale was all about. You know, it’s all from a different part of the cow, and each has a different name and purpose that’s pretty mysterious. Here’s what I learned, starting with a knowledge base of zero:

— Beecon: The beef version of bacon. I find it to have a deep and rich flavor, as opposed to the candiness of pork bacon. Use it to flavor soups and stews and anything you’d use bacon for.

— Beef Chips: Like a crispy beef jerky.

— Spider: This comes from the part of the hip bone with a hole, so there’s only two cuts of this per animal. Very tender. Serve sliced.

— Chuck: The back/shoulder part. A chuck steak is from the middle. Dry aging makes it as tender as a rib eye. Check for aging when purchasing a chuck steak.

Fresh-caught “backyard” shrimp. Ikaika Kam, the fisher person on site, says these are smaller than farmed shrimp but have a sweet flavor. It’s true, it’s not just the spices! Served here with young sweet corn shucked and griddled and garnished. Photo by Anni Caporuscio

— Mock Tenderloin: A hidden underneath part of the chuck. Looks like a tenderloin, which is located toward the back of the cow. Also called shoulder tender.

— Flap: A part of the sirloin. Best cubed and marinated for kebabs.

— Shank: A leg part. It usually comes in a disk with a shin bone. Make osso buco with shank meat.

— Sirloin: From the back part, a surprise to me.

— Skirt: Great for fajitas as it takes marinade well. Slice with the grain.

— Teri Beef: Kiawe marinated.

— Liver and heart: Many health conscious people are eating liver and heart for they are extremely high in minerals and protein.

— Bone broth: A now legendary rendering of the bones into a remedy for many ailments, or a start for soups and marinades.

— Beef butter: A great cooking medium that takes the place of lard. High in Omega-3 it is a healthy fat.

Chef Adam Watten. Why eat local? He says, “you support the livelihood of our community, you support the traditions of making food, the food is fresher and thus more nutrient dense, and Kaua‘i is able to produce in variety available nowhere else because of our climate and the cultural stew that has brought so many flavors to our shores.” Photo by Anni Caporuscio

Adam, along with his business partner, friend, designer and merchandiser, Lyle Cady, has sought out the best of Kauaʻi produce. What makes Kauaʻi special are the multiple growing seasons that overlap all year long, and the many climates. What is a little known thing that grows here? Stonefruits: peaches and plums. And a pear tree! And spices and sugar!

I went to the Farmer’s Market that Hānai hosts at their home-base location in the Kojima’s Center. From 2 p.m. to dusk on Wednesdays, a spirited gathering of produce, meats, fish, shrimp and extras takes place. Hānai also creates an outdoor kitchen so you can taste a sampler of what’s being sold. It’s a super friendly and vibrant get-together and when I went, there was live music, young farmers shucking sweet corn, kids squealing, and the like

You can find Hānai at the Saturday Farmers Market in Kilauea and at the market they host at their own site on Wednesdays. You’ll remember them as a pop-up restaurant, and a market, and a regular at outdoor markets selling local Kauaʻi meats and ingredients. Keep your eyes peeled for the beginning of next month, when they plan to open up in the Kojima’s location as a full-fledged restaurant.

4-1543 Kuhio Hwy in Kapa‘a. Visit www.HānaiKauaʻi.com to sign up for the mailing list and get updates on menus and where they’ll be.

  • Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.